Monday, April 29, 2013

Last Call: Just The First

A couple of weeks ago I noted this article on the economics of coming out in a major professional team sport:

According to Bob Witeck, 61, a gay-marketing strategist and corporate consultant, the first openly gay team-sport athlete -- provided he’s a recognizable name -- would earn millions in endorsements and speaking engagements from companies seeking to capture more of a U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adult population whose annual buying power he pegs at almost $800 billion.

“We’ve passed the tipping point to where national advertisers are no longer afraid of the gay market,” said Mark Elderkin, chief executive officer of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Gay Ad Network. 

Well America, it took about two weeks, but we've got our first test of this theory:  12-year NBA veteran center Jason Collins (now a free agent), who comes out in a Sports Illustrated article this week.

I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.

I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.

My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.

I've played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you're in the league, and I haven't been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates' teammates. Or one of your teammates' teammates' teammates.

Now I'm a free agent, literally and figuratively. I've reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful. 

Good luck to you Jason.   Hopefully it'll open the floodgates.  The truth is a hell of a thing, folks.  Here's hoping that the rest of the NBA is as accepting.

Stopped Clock Is Right Alert For Johnny Volcano

Turns out Sen. John "Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran" McCain doesn't want to put troops in Syria after all.  Given his warmongering, that's an improvement.

An international coalition of troops should be ready to go into Syria to secure the country’s chemical weapons stockpiles, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Sunday, warning that U.S. troops on the ground would only spark more Mideast anger.

But McCain said that putting troops in Syria is the “worst thing United States could do right now,” because the Syrian people are bitter and angry at the United States.

“I think that the American people are weary. They don’t want boots on the ground. I don’t want boots on the ground,” McCain said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Well, he's right, actually.  But, as always with the constantly dishonest and prevaricating McCain, there's always a catch.

But McCain urged the Obama administration to take several actions in Syria, such as arming rebel groups or establishing a safe zone, steps he and other GOP hawks have long pressed for.

Yeah, what does "establishing a safe zone" mean, and how do we do that without troops on the ground to enforce that zone?  Doug Mataconis responds:
What McCain doesn’t understand, or which he chooses to ignore, is that even the “limited” involvement that he’s in favor of poses the significant danger of sucking us further into the conflict in the future. In for a penny, in for a pound so to speak. Additionally,an “international coalition” is far harder to put together than McCain seems to think. Who is going to make up this coalition? The British? Somehow I don’t think the British public is going to want to bear that burden in the wake of their experiences in Iraq. The French? That poses the danger of reigniting passions from the days when France controlled what is now Syria and Lebanon after the post-World War I collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks? That poses the danger of igniting regional tensions, not to mention Kurdish resentment in the areas of Syria where they predominate. In the end, the U.S. would end up having to shoulder a large part of the burden of this “international coalition,” and the mission would be seen as predominantly an American initiative notwithstanding whatever “international” window dressing may be put upon it.
I'll go one step further.  Who's going to pay for this?  Deficit hawk Republicans who are screaming about "the debt crisis" every 35 seconds?  The ones who say we can't spend money for Sandy victims because we can't afford it, but can spend tens of billions, maybe hundreds of billions or more in a protracted Syria campaign?  And in the age of European Austerity, who in Europe has the appetite for war, either?

Here's the truth about Damascus:  there are zero good options.  Bashar al-Assad is by no means innocent in this vicious civil war, but he's also riding the runaway train that is the Syrian Army, and if he tries to rein them in, they'll end him.  Frankly, he's the only thing standing between the generals and a full-out military coup, and the junta would then go weapons free on everything moving.  He's inherited all the sins of his father Hafez, and the cost in blood to the Syrian people will skyrocket no matter what happens.

Getting rid of al-Assad won't stop the war, and if anything he's the plug in the dam bottling up a lake of blood.  If he goes, so does the region...and yet I don't see any way out for him at this point that doesn't end in his demise, Saddam-style.  He knows this, and I don't think he's too keen on his death. 

A lot of people are going to die in Syria if we get involved.  That's going to go up by an order of magnitude or so if we do.  Perhaps pressure on China and Russia to stop blocking the UN on Syria will finally pay off and something can be done through peacekeeping forces, but as Doug says anything the US puts together is a guaranteed hunk of sodium in the bathtub.

There may not be much of anything we can do other than try to contain the fallout.  The alternative is another ten-year war.  I'll pass. President Obama continues to play things cautiously, and given the last guy in the Oval Office, I'm glad for it.

The GOP Plan Is Backfiring

There's new evidence from the Associated Press today that GOP efforts to suppress the black vote backfired in 2012 and resulted in record turnout instead.

America’s blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.

Had people voted last November at the same rates they did in 2004, when black turnout was below its current historic levels, Republican Mitt Romney would have won narrowly, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press.

Census data and exit polling show that whites and blacks will remain the two largest racial groups of eligible voters for the next decade. Last year’s heavy black turnout came despite concerns about the effect of new voter-identification laws on minority voting, outweighed by the desire to re-elect the first black president.

That's why you're seeing Republicans scramble to kill early voting and institute increasingly strict voter ID hoops for voters to jump through.  When African-Americans vote, things change.

Romney would have erased Obama’s nearly 5 million-vote victory margin and narrowly won the popular vote if voters had turned out as they did in 2004, according to Frey’s analysis. Then, white turnout was slightly higher and black voting lower.

More significantly, the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and Colorado would have tipped in favor of Romney, handing him the presidency if the outcome of other states remained the same.

Romney would have won all three of the traditional big three battleground states (OH, FL, PA) without the black vote (plus VA and CO).  4 of those 5 states, including the big three, are currently under Republican control.  No wonder the GOP is furiously trying to make voting more difficult.

What will happen in 2014 and 2016?  Time will tell.


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